Long distance bus travel is nothing new but the Argentines have taken it to its most opulent extreme. Combine business class airplane seats with a vast landscape at 55 mph and you get Argentina's stunning pullmans.
In the summer of 1998, I traveled across 5,000 miles of continental United States by Greyhound, in a large triangle with Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Rapid City, S.D., at its corners. It was huge fun for a seventeen-year-old with little money but ample weeks between high school and university, and it was also a great way to see America in a way I had never thought I’d see it. It was also not a particularly comfortable way to travel, at times downright frightening. Back in DC after three weeks, I concluded that it’d been a wonderful trip but that next time I’d perhaps opt for airplanes (little did I know that next time would be in a yellow Chevrolet Camaro with Messrs. Wert and Krewson for company).
Argentine coaches are anything but pedestrian. Like American Greyhounds, they are the product of a vast, largely flat landscape with few major population centers, but the similarities end there. These things are majestic. Coach terminals are served by dozens of companies in fierce competition which shows in the service they offer: I paid $50 of pesos for an ejecutivo-class coach from Córdoba to Buenos Aires (400
miles), which included dinner, breakfast, and a ludicrous throne of a seat easily beyond the comforts of business class which folded flat for sleep and came with leg support the size of an economy seat in a plane.
The whole experience of rumbling along the Río de la Plata all night is very much like a jetliner in soothing turbulance, with the added bonus of great comfort and of actually seeing the landscape you’re crossing without the hassles of modern air travel: you can buy your ticket thirty minutes before departure, you won’t have to carry your precious fluids in little see-through containers, you’ll retain full control of your shoes, and you won’t be patted down by a TSA officer.
Eight hours after departure from Córdoba, I awoke rested at the bus terminal of Buenos Aires. And ejecutivo is far from being the top of the pecking order: for a little more money, you can find a bus decked out with private suites like those on Emirates flights for poor plutocrats who can’t afford two Gulfstreams to use one as a backup when their primary plane is being serviced. Legend has it some companies even serve fresh steak for dinner instead of pre-packed ham sandwiches and cookies, which sounds like a ridiculous Argentinian wet dream but which may very well be true.
Photo Credit: Jason Jones (top) and Peter Orosz